Matty dissects the late John Carl Buechler’s daft as a brush dino-schlocker.
Die Hard (1988)-type movies are a cornerstone of the DTV market, but none come close to the dizzying madness of John Carl Buechler’s THE EDEN FORMULA which is, for all intents and purposes, Die Hard with a dinosaur. It’s a concept every bit as glorious as it sounds, and this potty romp is a lovely way to pass eighty minutes or so.
Like Jim Wynorski’s Raptor (2001), Buechler’s flick is another sort-of but not quite sequel to Carnosaur (1993) — though as with Raptor, the only tethering The Eden Formula has to the rest of the series is its use of recycled FX footage (well, that and Buechler himself: the late latex-slinging genius-cum-director was, after all, responsible for the wonderfully stylised monsters in the first three instalments of the Jurassic Park (1993)-indebted saga). However, it should be noted that Buechler’s programmer — which was written as ‘Tyrannosaurus Wrecks’ and premiered as a SyFy Original in September 2006 — is nowhere near as stitch-y as Wynorski’s ‘greatest hits’ compendium. Whereas Raptor featured no new dinosaur action, its numerous scenes of reptilian attack cribbed wholesale from Carnosaurs 1, 2, and 3, The Eden Formula does have a lot of fresh, cartoon-y, and quintessentially Buechler-looking dino fun courtesy of a typically rubbery T-Rex. While the design inconsistencies between it and the Carnosaur stuff are obvious (and worsened by the Carnosaur footage apparently being pulled from a scuzzy dupe), playing ‘spot the seams’ quickly becomes part of The Eden Formula’s scrappy, eccentric appeal.
In terms of Rex-led destruction, the highlight is, of course, the sublimely silly food buzzer sequence. Conditioned a la Pavlov’s dogs, an errant alarm triggers a feeding frenzy and the hulking beast-lizard — which is quite clearly a hand puppet shot to scale — quickly starts chowing down on everyone, massacring several nondescript members of the cast that Buechler evidently had no further use for. The stunningly naff CGI composites as the dinosaur flounces around Skid Row, and an extended ‘film within a film’ non sequitur featuring a cameo from Adam Green (fresh from Hatchet (2004), which Buechler provided a wealth of grue for) are a close second.
Performance-wise, it’s a mixed bag. The younger players are monster meat, no more, no less, and Jeff Fahey and Dee Wallace deserve praise for their poker faces — until Fahey snaps and goes Al Pacino in Heat (1995) anyway. Sporting shades and clad in black, Tony Todd, meanwhile, knows from the outset that he’s in quality schlock territory and cuts loose with some primo scene-chewing. The Eden Formula’s Hans Gruber, he’s the big bad who breaks into Fahey’s lab on the eve of an important investor meeting to snatch the titular dino-making juice. Tech credentials aren’t too shabby either and deserve a mention. Seemingly inspired by the immediacy of shooting on DV, Buechler’s emphasis on handheld camerawork imbues the film with a kinetic grittiness that keeps things moving even when his script is freewheeling.
Interestingly, The Eden Formula was one of two Buechler flicks shepherded by porn producer Peter Davy (the other was the Todd-starring Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2006) — Buechler’s final directorial offering before his death last year). As for Roger Corman, unlike the producer credits he’d receive on Carnosaur 1 – 3 and Raptor, his name is nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless, Corman’s Concorde New Horizons is given thanks in the film’s end credits, and the legendary mogul did at least mention being involved with The Eden Project in a 2012 chat with SyFy Wire:
“We had a giant return on Carnosaur,” Corman told Adam-Troy Castro. “We did Carnosaur 2 and Carnosaur 3, and the profits were still there, but dropping with each one. We went to Carnosaur 5, and we still had a profit, but our profit had steadily diminished. When I saw grosses on Carnosaur 5, which gave us a nice, pleasant profit, but nothing great, I said, ‘That’s the end of Carnosaur,’ because I could predict that we’d either only break even or lose money if we did more… The trick is to go far enough without going too far.”
USA ● 2006 ● Action, Sci-Fi ● 83mins
Jeff Fahey, Tony Todd, Dee Wallace ● Wri./Dir. John Carl Buechler
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